Years ago people could live a productive life, save for retirement and build a nest egg without a high school diploma or little to none formal education.
See, when I was a youngster, my mother worked 2 to 3 jobs to provide for our family. The challenges of her younger life and family prevented her from obtaining her high school diploma because she had to help take care of her siblings. Yet, in her late thirties and early forties, my mother studied for the GED, passed the Board and later received technical and occupational training as a medical transcriptionist and tax-preparer. Due to economic demands and financial shifts, my mother again in her late forties, early fifties received training as a nurse practitioner. However, today just to stay afloat in her industry, she is developing herself to receive her RNA license at sixty years of age. See, my mother is a prime example and parody of the educational and employment changes facing students and workers in today’s developing 21st Century Economy and Workforce.
Nowadays, the No Child Left Behind (NCLB) is a governmental framework that addresses the achievement gap. The achievement gap is the educational inequalities and the low academic performance between students in urban districts and suburban districts, as well as students with disabilities such as me. The NCLB focusing on standardizing education to insure every child has an accessible and appropriate education to support the notion that the every child must have the fundamental skills to succeed. But, in the next years, the American schools’ initiatives are changing. The Government/State is investing billions of dollars in the DOL, NIST, DoE SC, DOE, and NSF to provide specialized training and programs for students and workers who must develop and refine their skills in Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematical Sciences to handle the new demands of technology and product innovations, global business, and the emerging marketplace. As a result of the growing frustrations and needs for technical and informational workers, the high school diploma is shifting to certify that students are qualified to perform advance ‘applied’ skills, as well as be prepared for successful employment and constant career growth. Now, here’s the prevailing dilemma.
Employers complain that many college graduates are not prepared for the marketplace and lack the new set of skills necessary for successful employment and continuous career growth. Only 6 percent of todays jobs do not require at least completion of high school, which means for a student without the adequate skills, he/she will not be eligible to even apply for 94 percent of job openings. The U.S. Department of Labor forecasts that by 2012 the U.S. economy will have the largest workforce in the nation’s history culminating to more than 162 million people. However, it will not be enough to fill the 2 million job openings projected to be available. In order words, millions of jobs are expected to go unfilled because workers lack the specialized skills required to fill them. Alarming, the U.S. government predictions show a shortage of more than 10 million skilled workers by 2012.
So, how can we get geared up to handle this pandemic? I believe the greatest strategy is to address these challenges from a 360 feedback/survey strategy. This strategy is used in business to track and evaluate the total quality management (TQM) of the organization’s performance, company health and managerial leadership. In order words, parents, teachers, administrators, business leaders, professionals, legislators, policy-makers and governmental figures must collectively and collaboratively retool and refine students and workers. We must create support systems, supplemental statewide and schoolwide programs; use flexible, individualized educational planning strategies; enhance parental training, awareness and advocacy; work with career and counseling centers, as well as form strategic partnership with youth service organizations; merge youth/personal and professional development systems in the educational curriculum; implement and increase community-based vocational training (CBVT), job-shadowing, mentorships/apprenticeships, on-the-job training (OJT), and realistic job preview (RJP) and job rotation programs; teach students early about effective career planning, development and management, life skills development, professional learning and integrative life planning (ILP), and expose students and workers to talent management, performance management and succession planning tools and resources . In fact, observations show many high-schoolers, college graduates; adults and professionals lack the critical knowledge of the workings and usefulness of the available resources and tools to help them be equipped and competitive in the 21st Century Economy and Workforce.
If America is going to remain a Super Power and a Global Competitor in the developing 21st Century, then we must invest in the interpersonal skills development and intrapreneurial spirit and welfare of our students and workers.